The other side of Cuba – Varadero

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Cuba is overwhelming, it is a culture shock for those of us who live in the UK, they speak a foreign language and the weather in warm. All in all after 2 weeks of on the go travel we knew we would need a rest. We went to an all inclusive resort in Mexico for our honeymoon so thought we would give it another go.

Varadero is renowned for being the all inclusive centre of Cuba. It’s not far from Havana and is set up on its own little spit away from the rest of Cuba. We were a little dubious that the American orientated resorts wouldn’t be what we were looking for but for 3 days what was the harm!

We opted for a bungalow rather than being in a hotel block, which had its advantages as it gave us more space and somewhere to relax if we’d had enough of people but it was a little walk (or golf cart) away from the main areas.

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After some careful research, including some cost analysis, we chose the Hotel Sol Palmeras. Now, don’t get me wrong there was nothing wrong with the resort itself or the experience we had but when you compare it to where we had come from it was miles apart.

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The hotel had some outdoor pools, a “private” beach (beaches in Cuba are supposed to be public property but the resorts have cornered them off and prevented local people from accessing them) with its own palm tree sun shades and various restaurants.

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We lounged about for the days we were there, not really enjoying the reverse culture shock of only hearing English and only seeing western faces. We didn’t enjoy the food particularly, the need to stuff faces was not something we felt the need to do. Plus, they measured the rum going into the drinks, something we hadn’t seen since we were back in the UK. Something that really wasn’t Cuban.

It was out of our capability to understand why people would come to Cuba and only ever see these resorts. Sure there is golf and spas and swimming pools plus more food and drink then you could need but you’re missing out on the real Cuba. To have seen both sides helps me understand why I would never go back to Varadero.

As I’ve said it wasn’t all bad. There is one outstanding reason I can see that people would visit and the one reason I’m pleased we went. The beach.

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Varadero has some of the best beaches in Cuba. The sand is white, soft and warm. The sea is blue to match the sky and the sun seemed to always shine. They are beautiful. In the day and as the sun sets over the sea.

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The beach is out of this world and would almost convince me to return to Varadero. It did remind me of the beaches in Mexico, something about that Caribbean area I suspect. It is hard to deny the pull of the ocean.

Varadero is a sanitised vision of Cuba. Visit if you must but please make sure you get out of the hotel. Visit Havana, visit Cuba. If you want to experience the beach while you’re in Cuba you can visit the main town of Varadero and head to the public beaches or find another spot along the Cuban coastline.

There were almost 5 years between our time in Mexico and our time in Cuba. Our travels have changed us, broadened our minds and made us appreciate the world outside of the walls of a hotel. And, do you know what, I wouldn’t change that for anything.

Ever found yourself feeling isolated and out of your comfort zone yet surrounded by people like you?

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